Saturday, June 29, 2002

Ahhh! the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer... the season is beckoning and I'm answering the call. I don't expect to be posting anything until the Wednesday after next (July 10th) in the early evening hours. Till then, enjoy the Dolce Vita.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

In ancient times, forty years was considered the life of a generation. This is why the Jews spent forty years wandering in the desert. The new Jews, the young Jews would be a new generation... one not engaged in the sin that caused their wanderings and thus one worthy to enter the promised land.

Someone mentioned to me recently that forty years is also the length of time that it takes for the Church to settle down into a new configuration after an ecumenical council. Forty years is the time that is required for the necessary changes to settle into the lives of the Faithful. It is also sufficient to display the bad fruits that should be cast out.

Today, the Church is not who the post-Vatican reformers imagined. She is not who the old widows turn to in their dreams. She is not quite the Mother whom newly-reconciled post-Protestant Catholics had envisioned. She is not at all the Church that any of our highly motivated human members demand Her to be.

It occurs to me that, if the Church is not what any of Her human members want, perhaps the Church is not particularly concerned with their dismay. Perhaps, she is more interested in pleasing Another.

The pre-Vatican Church (at least in America) was 'a people set apart'. She existed as a distinct and separate society within the larger secular world. She was true and faithful and monastically quiet in confronting the world. The pre-Vatican Church was an organization based on quiet strength and discipline. As a woman, she most resembled the demure 'women of cover' who inhabit the Islamic world. Her beauty and her passion were discreetly veiled.

The post-Vatican Church was ecumenical. She was open to the world in her innocence. She was entranced by the neighborhood 'bad boys' who tempted her with freedom and rebellion. In opening herself to the world, she flirted with infidelity. She was young and sensuous and authentic. Perhaps She was a bit naive and thus dangerously vulnerable. She went to the dance with dissidents who then abandoned her when flirtation turned to seduction and her ultimate answer was 'No'.

She's come home with Calvinists These staunch new Catholics, fervent in the faith, would not have glanced at the cloistered Sister of Mystery. Yet, they embrace the secret mystery in the soul of this more wanton woman. They recognize the chaste purity at the heart of her flirtation.

The post-Vatican Church was open to dissent; now post-Vatican dissenters must confront the fruits of their dissent. The new Catholics are not impressed by theological degrees and learned opinions. They are impressed with authenticity and freedom.

The post-Vatican Church was empty. Some say 50% to 75% of Catholics are non-practicing. What will happen when these orphaned children grow weary of a world gone mad? What will happen if their memories are stirred by the clarion call of a Church persecuted by a culture of death and devilment? If ever they come to their Mother's defense, which Church will they be defending? Which memory is stronger... the memory of a Mother who sheltered them or the memory of One who abandoned them on the verge of adolescence? In the exhausted aftermath of battle, into whose arms will they want to surrender themselves?

The people who today argue over possession of the Church and who earnestly seek to chart her future are the lost middle generation of desert wandering. In a sad but substantial way they are irrelevant. They are neither old men dreaming dreams, nor young men seeing visions. They are merely the status quo.

The time for desert wandering is spent. The pilgrim church is being refashioned. We have entered a new age, one for which we have been prepared. The Canaanites hold in their possession the promised land but not the promise to the land. The Church Triumphant is beckoning and the Church Militant is rising. We will yet conquer the world with a wild and masculine love.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Fox News is taking an informal poll on whether the words 'under God' should apppear in the Pledge of Alligiance. Since the Knights of Colombus were instrumental in getting the words put in the pledge back in the 1950's, I thought members of and visitors to St Blogs might want to weigh in.

The world is full of wild and wasted virtue - Chesterton

We must experience a personal preference for the will of God. We must prefer the future that God intends to the future of our own intentions. We must prefer the path to that future which is the will of God to the plans we create to achieve his will. We must submit our souls to God - both our intelligence and our will - Tugwell

We must see more clearly than daylight that we have no source of goodness or accomplishment in ourselves. We must learn to live with the deepest possible conviction of our own worst than nothingness. Only so can God make anything genuinely beautiful of us. -Tugwell

The Church must be careful so that the world might be careless - Chesterton

I have found that when a man forsakes his private conscience for the sake of his public duty, he leads his country on a short route to chaos. - fromThomas More in A Man for All Seasons

A [martyr] must desire life like water and drink death like wine. - Chesterton

Christian courage is a distain for death. Chinese courage is a distain for life. - Chesterton

It is the happy man that does the useless thing. If a mad man for an instant could become careless, he would become sane - Chesterton

Gandhi is quoted as saying "Worship without Sacrifice is an absurdity of modern living"

"We simply cannot live with the chaos we've created."

Our weapons in the battle against the culture of death are joy and freedom and love,...laughter and risk-taking and sensuality. We are the people who worship the God of Life, of Truth and of Love.

A Liturgical Yearning --

Today and for a long time into the future, the Church in America must live in a penitential mode. We must remember with every breath that we are in serious need of redemption. Today, I feel called to the Sacrifice of the Mass rather than its celebration. I want a priest who faces the altar with me rather than one who presides over the alter above me. I want a Mass where the priest physically acknowledges the crucifixion rather than turning his back on the cross of our redemption. I am in need of a priest and not a celebrant. It doesn't have to be a universal change. It needn't be mandated. I'd be content simply with the option.

Idle Reflections on the Liturgy --

"We might have expected some stripping away of the eccentricities and repetitions, the lovely formalities that had accumulated to Catholic worship over the centuries; a more expansive use of the vernacular languages, especially in the readings; and a greater participation by laity newly trained in singing the exquisite Chant and other Church music created over two millennia by the monks and Monteverdi, by Mozart and by Messiaen. The difference between the old liturgy and the new ought to have been as subtle as that dividing Art Nouveau from Art Deco: The same elements, rendered more clearly and more starkly, with a masculine force and focus that attends to the essentials.

And that is what you will see in Rome, if you attend the pope's Mass today - since the Holy Father faithfully follows the rubrics and directions given in Pope Paul's original Novus Ordo Missae, which was, essentially, a faithful balance between tradition and modernity. As the pope says Mass, sometimes facing the altar, with a generous use of Latin, chant, incense and carefully orchestrated ritual, the essential meaning of the rite is preserved: The priest acts in the person of Christ. Christ acts as high priest, and offers himself as victim to God the Father, in expiation for the sins of man. In the person of the priest, Christ weds himself to the congregation, which stands for the Church, Christ's mystical Bride. Just as the priest's sacrificial role in the New Testament theology is a direct outgrowth - down to many of the rituals and prayers used - of the High Priest's Temple ritual in Judaism, so this matrimonial theology grows directly out of the Old Testament understanding of the Jewish people as wedded to Yahweh. (See the Song of Songs and Hosea for lovely, poetic meditations on this theme in the Hebrew Bible.)...
We believe that God marries the Church as a whole, and each soul in particular. The priest stands in for Christ, does his work on the altar, enacting this mystical union each time he says the Mass. This marriage between the priest and the congregation, between Christ and the Church, is at the very heart of Catholic theology. It connects to the sacredness of the sexual act, and expresses the very reason why (as we believe) God became a man - in order to unite the mass of fallen, weak humanity to himself, in a mystical sacrament of love." -- Dr. Zmirak from his more involved article And Judas Went and Hanged Himself

Idle Reflections on the Liturgy --

"The sincere and dedicated men who made the post-Vatican revolution really believed that the good of the Church genuinely and certainly required the secularization of Catholic consciousness. Increasingly agnostic about God and eternal life, the reformers passionately believed that the only hope for mankind lay in a shift of emphasis from the sacred to the secular span of human life, to global community, to the quest for social justice and peace. For them Christ's prayer 'Thy Kingdom come' was a hope meant to be realized and capable of realization here and now, if the spiritual energies of the Catholic Church were redirected to that end instead of being squandered on myths and dreams. A truncated cosmology, a human communtity, was 'the holy thing' that the revolution intended that the new liturgy should convey...

In the new paradigm, the horizontal this-worldly dimension of Christianity has crowded out the vertical dimension. All that remains is the social gospel....The liturgy offered the most available opportunity for conveying this paradigm shift to the consciousness of theCatholic laity: first, because the bulk of the laity is unreachable by the revolution in any other way; second, because of the way the liturgy communicates, on an immediate, intuitive level, to the stomach before the head." -- Anne Muggeridge

Apropos of nothing --
"Since no society can exist without order, and no order without regulation, we may take it as a rule of history that the power of custom varies inversely to the multiplicity of laws." William Durant

As long as I'm being opinionated, the following less than charitable thought also occurred to me.

Between the Dallas conference and the article on Emily Stimpson's blog where USA reports that 90% of American Catholics want more government control of the Church, I've begun to wonder how we'll spend our thirty silver pieces. Hey if we are going to turn the 'Body of Christ' over to the control of the secular authorities, we might as well get paid for it.

I am in a particularly belligerent mood today...

On Monday, Steve Mattson over at In Formation asks the question whether the Catholic Church in America is black enough? I had to put my two-cents in on his comments section and now I feel I might be owing him a bit of an apology.

'Black Enough' is a phrase that makes me see red. I know too many people who have been hurt by it and I have loved too many people who have been wounded by it.

I think the question in the context of the Catholic Church is simply out of place. The assumption behind this question is that the American Catholic Church is as concrete a reality as the local diocese or the universal Church. It shouldn't be. I would imagine that, in the universal Church, the majority of the Faithful are 'non-white'. I mean, if U.S. Catholics are only 6% of the Catholic people, I cant imagine that adding Europe, Australia and Canada is going to bring this number up to 50%.

In local dioceses, whether in America or elsewhere, the diocese probably represents whatever nationalities are present. It is true that the leadership of a diocese might currently reflect a prior population. Again, I use the example of NYC where the bishops of both dioceses are Irish American. Some say that this is because the Catholic money in the dioceses is still primarily in Irish hands. Or it may be that when you consider the entire mix of ethnic groups, the Irish still predominate. (Hispanic and Latino are relatively new concepts. Historically CA and SA immigrants identified with a country rather than a continent. I believe that to a large extent they still do but...who knows?). A third possibility is that the other ethnic groups are merely underrepresented in the current North American priesthood simply because the immigrants didn't bring their priests with them and their sons have not yet joined the ranks of US priests in sufficient number or been in the US ranks long enough to have become US bishops.

I do know the local parishes traditionally reflect the culture of their parish members. As I mentioned in a prior post, my own parish building currently 'houses' about 7 ethnic parishes (based on the languages in which Mass is said). I can tell you for sure that the Fillipino community in my parish building is very 'Fillipino' in their approach to the faith. I imagine that the same thing would be true in 'black' parishes.

I don't know whether Catholicism is the third largest religion among North American blacks or whether it is the third largest Christian religion among North American blacks. I do know that it is significantly established in various 'black' communities and it is growing. Here in NYC, our 'black' parishes are more likely to be Haitian, Dominican, Jamaican, North American Black etc... parishes. I think that this is appropriate and Catholic.

As a beautiful, 'not black enough' woman I know says "why does it always have to be a race thing?" It is her contention that 'yes, sometimes race matters, and other times it doesn't. Just like, sometimes being beautiful matters and sometimes it doesn't." Since both descriptions fit her, I imagine that she has some insight on the matter.

Additionally, although perhaps not traditionally, I think that the one place race shouldn't matter is inside the family. The whole structure of Catholicism is based on the family. So it shouldn't matter there either.

Finally, I think that a more pertinent question would be whether we, as Catholics, can trust our shared Catholic culture enough, to begin honest conversation about the impact that race has on our lives and our relationships. It would be nice, if we could, ever careful of each other in dignity and in love, address an issue so damaging to our nation and our American lives.

But all of this is merely personal opinion.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

In the Catholic imagination, the Church is the Bride of Christ because, in the presence of God, all of creation is feminine and yielding. It is the very masculinity of God that holds the Church freely captive in His embrace. God's unabashed masculinity requires both a feminine response and a yielding to those elements within the Church's own nature that echo the very masculinity of Her Spouse. The Church's feminine nature is a tribute to masculinity, not a substitute for it.

Complementarity is quite different from the principle of opposites. In the theory of opposites, we find a certain exclusive ownership of one set of virtues matched by an exclusive ownership of another set of virtues. In theory at least, each set is completed by the other. In actual practice, I would imagine that each set inhabits a closed world where the alien nature of the other offsets any attraction between the two.

In the concept of Complementarity, the sets are not exclusive. Instead, each set carries within itself a faint echo of the Other. In the absence of the Other, each of these echoes becomes a hunger for a very specific quality. In the presence of the Other, each echo becomes an affirmation of the Other and the basis for a complementary melding of the two entities. The sum of the parts becomes a greater thing that any earthly creature can truly imagine.

The relationship between men and women, between the Feminine and Masculine, was not meant to be a battle. It was intended as a unending dance of intimacy.

Since I have repeatedly referred to the Church as the Bride of Christ, one of my readers has suggested that the Bride might do with a little less testosterone. This was obviously the comment of a very modern man. He has no idea of the effect that a hint of testosterone has on a woman's pulse, rhythm and spirit.

Anyway, today, as a special tribute to Catholic manhood, I've linked to the following:

Courage Under Fire
Welcome Back, Duke

Now go back and actually read them!
If you're a man, they may expand your chest with a rare sense of honor. They may even subtly adjust the measure of your stride.

If you're a woman, they will soften your features, curl your smile and return that subtle lost sway to your hips.

I say that this is a tribute to Catholic manhood, because in yet another article Ms Noonan acknowledges the following:

In the early days after the blast, I visited several of the memorials that have sprung up around town, in Union Square and in the heart of Greenwich Village. I was struck, at first, by the all the religious imagery, especially traditionally Catholic imagery--mass cards, pictures of the Sacred Heart, little statues of St. Anthony and St. Francis, pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe, votive candles, prayers written on envelopes and pieces of paper grabbed from a desk.

Then I realized there was so much because so many of the firemen and policemen who died were Catholic--Italian and Irish and Puerto Rican men from Queens and Staten Island, from Jersey and Brooklyn. It was their families and friends who had brought the mass cards and the statues of St. Anthony, by tradition the patron saint of missing things, in those early days, when they were still hoping that someone they loved would emerge from the ruins.

Monday, June 24, 2002

One of the post-Conciliar changes in Catholicism that I find both invigorating and gratifying is the influx of evangelical Christians into the Catholic Family. It reminds me of the Biblical quotation: "how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings"

I explore this influx in The Gathering of Chicks -- now in the sidebar.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Canon Law

One of the things that concerns me lately is the sudden surge of interest in canon law among laity. It fills me with a certain trepidation. Catholics aren't really people of the law, we are more people of the parable. We know that we have a right to admonish our bishops, not because Canon xyz establishes that right, but because St. Catherine of Sienna admonished the Pope.

The idea of Catholics using secular courts against the Church was unthinkable only a generation ago. Problems were settled 'in house.' Today, in the current climate of suspicion, this sounds vaguely threatening. It is no more threatening than the idea that family squabbles should be settled in the home. People didn't sue their families either. The very idea of using the legal system in this manner offends a Catholic sense of community.

Today, people would argue that justice wasn't served in such 'secrecy'. In some cases, it clearly wasn't. In other cases, perhaps the majority of cases, it may have been better served by the very personalist approach that is now under attack. Any system of justice can be subject to abuse. Dorothy Sayers makes the argument that "all legality, if erected into an absolute value, contains within itself the seeds of judgement and catastrophe...Law like every other product of human activity, shares the integral human imperfection: it is, in the old Calvinistic phrase, 'of the nature of sin.'"

To me, it is sad enough to see Catholics suing the Church in the secular courts, the idea that they may begin a legalistic attack in the courts of canon law is appalling. The quoting of canons is a bit like the chapter and verse quoting of Scripture. Such quoting infringes on the sense of Scripture by abstracting it from the fabric of life.

Historically, Catholics are not so much people of the book as they are people of the Word. Scripture is something we hear and speak, not necessarily something that we read and write. We know that 'those who mourn will be comforted' but most of us would be hard pressed to tell you exactly which chapter and which verse gives us these assurances. We tend to trust that God will remember His promises. We don't anticipate having to direct His attention to the actual written words.

We also tend to trust the words of the Church. We know that our priests will hold our confessions in sacred secrecy even to death. For the average Catholic, this is not a Canon Law. It is a fact of life. It is demonstrated in the lives of our priests who have gone to their deaths in fidelity to the Word.

Canon law is a rule for regulating Catholic life. It is discreet in the sense that Catholics live without any conscious awareness of it. To use it as a weapon in an ideological battle would be an abuse of both our law and our custom... Or so I would think.

And a note from your favorite contemporary writer (Chesterton) --

It is the fashion to talk of institutions as cold and cramping things. The truth is that when people are in exceptionally high spirits, really wild with freedom and invention they always must, and they always do, create institutions. When men are weary they fall into anarchy; but while they are gay and vigorous they invariably make rules. This, which is true of all the churches and republics of history, is also true of the most trivial parlour game or the most unsophisticated meadow romp. We are never free until some institution frees us; and liberty cannot exist till it is declared by authority.--Manalive

Life is full of surprises. One of the things that I find surprising is this blogsite. The things that I write about are things that I have never given much thought to. They are not the things that I find really interesting about my Faith. They are things that I have more or less taken for granted. Quite as interesting to me (although probably not to you), is the realization that I have no desire to write about the aspects of Catholicism that intrigue me. Yet I feel compelled to highlight the most mundane aspects of my faith. Perhaps, it is because I feel that this is the aspect of my culture that is currently under siege.

A while ago, I quoted Pope John XXIII's reflection that " the Catholic Church is set apart and distinguished by these three characteristics: unity of doctrine, unity of organization, unity of worship. This unity is so conspicuous that by it all men can find and recognize the Catholic Church." To me, each of these aspects of unity serves a distinct and necessary purpose. The concrete forms of both our worship and our organization are structures that guard our authentic freedom. Our doctrine identifies the very purpose of that freedom. Of course, I'm speaking in purely anthropological terms here.

At a more fundamental level, the Mass is the very essence of Creation. It is the point and purpose of creation. It is "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed [and] the font from which all her power flows... ". But this is true regardless of the rituals that surround the Mass. It is true in the simplicity of the Last Supper. It is true in the agony of the Cross. It is true in the mystery of the Tridentine Mass.

When I say that our liturgy guards our freedom, I mean something different. The form of the liturgy is important because it speaks to our innermost being. Anne Muggeridge states that "in a cosmological religion, the central act of worship embodies in symbols the community's understanding of the nature of God and of existence." She goes on to say "No significant change can be made in a rite without endangering the belief the rite expresses... [Equally true,] no significant change is made in a rite unless the men making it has experienced a serious change of belief in what the rite formerly expressed to them..."

It is this rite of worship that guards our interior life. This structure of intuitive knowing creates an interiority within which God can act and man can be acted upon. This interiority is the soil in which our freedom can take root. Our liturgy is a structure, a garden wall, that protects the soil from which our individuality develops.

At the other end of the spectrum are our communal nature and our exterior freedom. In a purely anthropological sense, the hierarchical and institutional aspect of our religion stands as the guardian of our external freedom. Just think about the role that the Catholic Church plays in the modern world. Think about how She does it. When the Church speaks, the whole world hears. They may refuse to listen, but they can not claim that the message was undelivered.

These same institutions have an even more profound impact on members of the Church. Here too, they act to safeguard both our corporate and our communal being. They create a significant realm of freedom within which Catholics can act, live and breath. They serve as a defense against the tyranny of men.

I understand that the enemies of the Church would attack Her structure, Her hierarchy, Her form of governance, Her rituals, Her traditions, Her very Heart. I do not understand when sincere and believing Catholics echo their sentiments.

The Church is not an idea and she is not an ideal. She is, in Her own way, an Incarnation. Her forms are Her particular forms because they are the expression of Her Incarnation and Her pilgrimage through time. Her forms are not eternal, but they are Her embodiment. They reflect her movement through time in the same way that the human body changes and develops over time. The gradualism of authentic change should be honored but the arbitrary mutilation of institutions should be avoided at all costs. Otherwise, our children will be trying earnestly to rebuild our institutional Church. They will probably resent our vandalism with the same ardor that is now directed at Liturgical Reformers.

Before I even begin to blog, I have to thank Emily Stimpson for her post on Drawing The Battle Lines. I wish I had her talent of discernment and her grace of illumination.

"Catholicism is a cosmological religion, that is one that integrates all the phenomena of space and time into a sacred order in which divine and human existence are continuous. This cosmology locates and explains man's existence. For the Catholic, therefore, religion is not private and autonomous but communitarian and cosmic. Every aspect of existence is explained as part of an eternal benevolent continuity....

There are no empty spaces in the Catholic universe. God has not disappeared as He did in Protestantism into radical transcendence to dwell unknowable, arbitrary, unapproachable. Catholicism has a universe of symbolic discourse, of mediating and communicating signs and structures through which one can remain in touch with the sacred...

Both the religious symbols of Catholicism and the social behavior of Catholics are outward signs of inner beliefs, the high altar and the large family equally eloquent about one's world view. The cult informs the culture and is inseparable from it...

In Catholic life, there is not such thing as 'a mere external'..."

-- Anne Muddridge

Thursday, June 20, 2002

I know that I'm not the first source you come to for information in the parish.
But just in case you missed him, there's a new blogger in town. He is definitely worth the visit.

A Saintly Salmagundi addresses the secret vice of our bishops and the problem of Americanism in the Church

His entire blog is well worth the read.

Additional Note:

Since I cant get the sub-links to A Saintly Salmagundi to work:
the post on secret vice is titled "Pusillanimity and the Episcopacy" and was posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2002
the post on secret vice is titled "The Battle in the American Church" and was posted on Sunday, June 16, 2002

Kairos has some interesting insights on both our need for Atonement and the gift we can offer by participation in the process.

On a completely different note--

In the past, several parishioners in St. Blog's have expressed outrage at the absurd changes to the liturgy they have been subject to in their local parishes. The thought occurs to me that a better response might be laughter. A lot of leaders today enjoy the reputation of a rebel. Few enjoy being considered a fool.

Reflections -- after the fact -- on the Dallas conference have been incorporated into Silver Coins ( -- now in the sidebar)

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Michael Novak has an interesting piece on the role dissent has played in the creation of the current Church Troubles.Bishops Ignore Elephant — and Camel

And my comments on Catholic Bipolar Disorder have been moved to Delusions of Grandeur

For years, within my family, the best way to win any religious or moral argument was to preface your remarks with "Father David says..."
God called Father David home a few weeks ago. The world is poorer for his passing and heaven is enriched. He died a good and faithful servant. ... May he dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Please, when you pray for our priests today, pray also for the repose of Father David's soul.


JACK over at Integrity is doing a terrific job exploring the role of the laity in the life of the Church. After my posting on 'Pray, Pay and Obey', I've been meaning to follow up with something on the post-Vatican vision of the laity. Fortunately, for me and for any one who reads my blog, JACK is doing a much better job than I could. So I'm sending you over there.

Just a note before you leave -

To encourage fruitful dialogue, the following is posted on JACK's site:

I'm not a huge fan of comments sections, but I am hopeful that the readers of Integrity will use the feature with the spirit I have intended and won't turn Integrity into a graffiti wall. If that happens, of course, I reserve the right to kill the feature. And edit posts. (Although, I only plan to do that if the posts having nothing to do with the reflections or are offensive.)

I hope you all take good advantage of the opportunity to explore this aspect of Catholic community.

Monday, June 17, 2002

There are days, like today, when I feel that repentant sinners are so much more fun than saints. I'm glad that my Church is filled with them. I want to live and thrive in a world of adults... A world where men are virile and women are enduring. I like being a grown-up and I love living Catholic.

Catholics live in a world of sin, and suffering and human degradation. We love sinners and hate sins. We know the true value of tolerance - that it "cannot be neutral about what is good, for its purpose is to guard goods and avert evils.... [We know] the real reason that we sometimes tolerate evils or put up with injuries to good: We do it to prevent graver evils, or to advance greater goods."

Catholics do what we might to transform our battered world. We do it knowing that our best efforts will always fall short of the goal. We acknowledge that we walk, in exile, through a "valley of tears". We do not and we will not rest in the "shadow of the valley of death."

Catholics endlessly strive to build a society based on Caritas which is "humble charity". We "realistically will the real good (which..[ none of us] may yet recognize) of the other as other. [We] seeks the real as lungs crave air...[we] are ready to follow evidence."

"An almost infallible sign of the presence of caritas is the steady exercise of realistic judgment. A civilization of caritas is a civilization acutely aware of, and provident for, human sinfulness. To ask too much of human beings in service to caritas is not fair to them; it is to fall short of caritas...The perfect must not be allowed to become the enemy of the good. The economics of caritas is realistic, not utopian"

Catholics fall down and with the help of the Church, we get up... Again, ...and again, ...and again. We know the justice of God through His Mercy.

Catholics are a nation of people who remain always open to suffering in service to each other. Like our Savior Himself, we are permanently and deliberately vulnerable to heartbreak, knowing that time and time again the 'heart must be broken so that it can be remade'. We live, even in our degradation, as a light to the nations.

Friday, June 14, 2002

"It is above all in the actual situation of each local church that the mystery of the one People of God takes the particular form that fits it to each individual context and culture. In the final analysis, this rooting of the Church in time and space mirrors the movement of the Incarnation itself. Now is the time for each local Church to assess its fervour and find fresh enthusiasm for its spiritual and pastoral responsibilities." -- John Paul 2.

In humanist, and perhaps Protestant thought, the secular world is considered immanent while religion is seen as transcendent. This is not a valid construct for a Catholic. It is our belief that our social, political and economic life must be rooted in the transcendent and that religion, in its transformative aspect, must be immanent. The point of 'preaching the gospel' is to engage the world. As a corporate religion, we see this engagement as a communal conversation as well as individual conversions. We are to make the world new and fashion it in the image of Jesus Christ

"Since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity. To ask catechumens: "Do you wish to receive Baptism?" means at the same time to ask them: 'Do you wish to become holy?' It means to set before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48)..."

“God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission.” --John Henry Newman

"We shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you! It is not therefore a matter of inventing a 'new programme'. The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the livingTradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a programme which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This programme for all times is our programme for the Third Millennium." -- John Paul 2.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

A brief aside --When we are incapable of loving the sinner, sin wins!

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Another interesting quote (again from an unknown source):

God governs the world....Prayer governs God

After receiving Jim's letter, the thought has been buzzing around my head that we really should be looking to reconcile the various factions in our faith community. Perhaps for the first time in years, we are talking to each other rather than past each other. We are all faced with a humiliating Catholic event and we are turning to each other for answers, for explanations and for affirmation. Rather than attacking each other, we are identifying with each other as members of the same partakers in the same mystery. Perhaps this is one of the unanticipated blessings of this moment. If we avail ourselves of the opportunity, this may be an instance in which God turns evil to His own purposes and re-invigorates His people as a universal priesthood, a people set apart. Regardless of where we stand on Church issues, today we are all immediately at one in identifying ourselves as Catholics.

I had forgotten that prior to the Council, the abbreviated catechism of the Church was 'pray, pay and obey'. I'm grateful that Jim mentioned it. I agree wholeheartedly that, as Catholics, we are called to much more. At the same time, with a bit of a twist, and a post-conciliar interpretation, we might consider this a valid minimalist approach to the faith.

I've already mentioned to Jim that I'm a big supporter of Catholicism for Everyone. I think that there are as many valid ways of being Catholic as there are people to inhabit the earth. That's one reason I love the motto I use for this blog. It acknowledges both the necessity for unity in the essential things and the obligation to liberty in the rest. I think that Catholic Lite is a valid way for some people to live the Catholic life. Each of us is called to a different kind of witness. In the final analysis the Catholic community will probably be judged by the world based on how authentically we adhere to the practices of Lite Catholicism. The truest witness will always remain the witness of example. This is a pragmatic truth of our Faith.

Anyway, before moving toward a fuller bodied version of Catholic witness, I'd like to explore each of the Catholic Lite duties, both in terms of pre- and post- Vatican assumptions.

Reflections on Pray, Pay and Obey -- A New Catholic Minimalism - (now in sidebar)

Thursday, June 06, 2002

I'll be 'gone fishin' for a few days.

I expect to be back Tues evening or Wednesday.

Till then, God's peace to us all

We need to remember that no one can be excluded from our love, since "through his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every person" --John Paul 2

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21).

The Church has not been successful in showing the continuity between matters of faith and morals. To the extent that there is a crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States today, it can largely be explained by a lack of understanding of this continuity. [Catholic Dossier - July/August 2001]

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

The second post requires a bit of an introduction. It's a strongly worded reflection on pre-Vatican clericalism. By way of introduction:

I am very familiar with the pre-Vatican II church, having spent my formative years as well as 3 years in minor seminary, and 4 years of Jesuit university prior to the advent of the Council by the blessed John XXIII.

This a man with a vibrant memory and a pertinent warning:

I don't know if you are of that generation or not, but I would like to disabuse you of the notion that clericalism is worse post-Vat II than it waspre-Vat II.

The concept of layfolk's role being to "pray, pay and obey" is not a fanciful Catholic myth. Clericalism WAS the modus operendi of Catholicism then. In the main, layfolk weren't asked nor were their ideas appreciated when it came to church governance. The aristocratic "prince of the church" mentality didn't spring up post-1965. French cuffs, watered silk, big cars and baronial rectories were the incentive for many a poor lad to seek status via the priesthood. And achieving that status resulted in an aura of sacrosanctism being vested in him, irrespective of his intellectual capabilities, moral turpitude or ability to inspire the poor sheep of his flock to holiness. The more he could rant on about the Virgin Mary, the better he was considered.

...And, yes, I do admit to plenty of post-Vat II abuses, many of which have been committed by layfolk. But they are no worse than those foisted on us by dispomaniacal clergy and overworked, underappreciated nuns. Regards, Jim McCrea

These are strong words and they contain two extremely important warnings. There is a tendency among some conservative Catholics to romantize the pre-Vatican Church. There are wonderful elements of pre-Vatican Catholicism that are worth preserving. I concentrate on some of those elements because they seem pertinent to our current troubles and I fear that they are in danger of being lost. However...

If the pre-Vatican Church were perfect for our age, there would not have been a need for the Council. There was much right and much wrong with that earlier Church. Obviously, Jim and I knew that Church differently. He was an adult in it. I was a child. His memory is older than mine. And his voice, as a part of Her 'living memory', is essential to our future.

A second danger is reflected more in the tone of the message than the content. Many Catholics, seeing the 'mess' we have become, are eager to throw away all the best fruits of the Council. That would be both foolish and 'post-Conciliar(?)'. If we romantize the pre-Vatican Church and demonize the post-Vatican Church, we will be left with the worst of both ages of the Church.

Thirty-five (forty) years after the Council, Vatican II should not be a moment in the Church that divides us. It should be a table of communion where the old and the new bring their best fruits to the service of the Church.

Jim and I may have different memories of the pre-Vatican Church, but I imagine we both share a memory of the Vatican Council as sunlight streaming through newly opened windows and the scent of Spring air amid the incense. It was a heady moment for the Church. It was necessary, bold and brilliant.

And a final remark: I hope you do find that article and publish it.

I mentioned having read an article about the level of clericalism in the post- vs the pre-Vatican Church. I will look for it, hopefully I will find it, but I have a feeling that it will be well into next week before I get a chance to post it

I know that it's late in the game, but the following two posts on the Conference in Dallas are worthy of consideration.

The first may fall under the category of 'bless those that persecute you' but I think that there is a good deal of sense in the remarks
An openness to criticism and a genuine engagement in dialogue, however painful, is always a good, and very Catholic, beginning. When combined with a love of the church, nuanced discernment and solid judgement among competing claims, it's unbeatable.

I would hope that the Bishops will invite Fr. Thomas Doyle to address the conference.
And afterwards, that they might appoint him to be their national spokesman.
Of all the people I have seen on TV he is the one who seems to come across with a lot of sense and comprehension of the problem and with the greatest "presence."

I know that there is some 'history' here, but often the Church's greatest critics have become Her most fervent supporters.
The expressed wish shows the constant hope of the Church.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

I guess you know that you are a pariah when... you have to go to someone else's blogsite to get feedback on your own.

I have offended people. I have probably offended a lot of people and for this, I am truly sorry. I'm not surprised, but I am sorry.

One correspondent feels that I am unwilling to acknowledge that Cardinal Law made even the tiniest of mistakes. Shoot, even the Cardinal admits he made mistakes. After my defense of him, do any of you really think that I would call him a liar?

I not only think that the Cardinal has made mistakes, I'll even concede that he may have sinned. The Church teaches us that there are seven ways in which one can participate in another's sin. I listed three of them in my post on Solidarity. To be honest, I have no idea whether any of these sins apply to the Cardinal. I'm not his confessor. I don't know the facts. I don't expect that I will know the facts in this lifetime. It's not my job to judge the man. That is between him and his God. Nor is it my job to rule on his competence to serve as bishop. Surprisingly, no one died and named me pope.

I suspect that my personal sins may be much greater than the Cardinal's. I thank God that my sins have been forgiven.

Perhaps my sins make me too sympathetic to the Cardinal. I admire the man. I know what it is like to sin. I know what it is like to confront the consequences of my own sin. I know what it is like to walk through the jeers of the self-righteous and to know that I thoroughly deserve their abuse.

I don't feel sorry for the Cardinal. I don't say the abuse is undeserved. I do say that he has my respect. It is easier to walk or even run away. It is easier to spill your blood for everyone to see, and give the crowd the show they demand. It would make no difference. There isn't enough blood... there will never be enough blood to satisfy vengeance. This is why I would leave justice and judgment to God.

I don't address the plight of the victims, as victims, on my blog. To me, this would be a desecration of their pain. I do address the issue of responsibility and guilt. I do this because my personal experience convinces me that the only escape from the pain of victimhood is found in the freedom of adult responsibility. It lies in owning one's own life (the good, the bad and the ugly). These are things that my Mother, the Church, has taught me. Here is the root of my peace and my joy.

It's possible that I misunderstand what the Church has taught me. It is very likely that the lessons She provides each of us differs according to our needs. I offer my voice as one among many.

I suspect that our sexual 'scandal' is fueled by our own confused and perhaps conflicted attitudes toward the predominant culture. By this, I don't mean that the abuse charges are bogus. I think that they are painfully real. Yet, I think that we hide behind our outrage to avoid dealing with our own compliance in sin and in a culture of death.

It appears to me that many of us have become Americans first, and Catholics second. We believe in the moral superiority of democracy and the sanctity of trial by jury. Many of us have a greater faith in the justice of our government than in the justice of our Church. I am not one who feels this way.

I have faith in the Church. I believe in the Freedom of the Church. I know that this is a principle that has proven itself over time. This is the reason that I seek viable Catholic methods for dealing with clerical misconduct. I am not sure what those answers are but I do know that we have 2000 years of experience to draw upon.

For the record, I haven't said anything on behalf of Archbishop Weakland, because there are others to defend him. If there weren't, you would have heard from me.

Monday, June 03, 2002

I've started receiving some feedback on Catholic Responses to the troubles in the Church. So far, I'm being overruled as far as lay boards go.

Mike Hardy over at Enemy of the Church? has an interesting proposal that he has kindly reiterated (since I've come so late to the table). He does seem to some good points, although personally I have a problem with his idea of 'running to the press.' I don't think we should be holding threats over our bishop's heads. Maybe it would be enough to issue periodic reports to diocesan members.

Mike who should be Reading doesn't see clericalism as being an issue with lay boards. Perhaps my use of the term was poor. Many of today's Catholics speak about Church leadership in terms of power, control and influence. To me, this is a position of clericalism. The opposite would be a self-effacing humility in service to the people of God. Leadership would involve persuasion rather than influence. It would empower people in their secular lives to act as Catholic 'lights' in the world.

Rather than concentrating on the transformation of the Church, the laity would be concerned with the lay responsibility of transforming the surrounding culture through the faithful living of the Faith in the secular world. Our Church 'leaders' would be the support personnel of this primary mission. They would see themselves as servants of the people of God. It is in this regard that the pope is considered the servant of the servants of God.

I would think that the vocation and the vocational training of a priest are more likely to instill this sense of service than the corporate or entrepreneurial experiences of lay leaders. I did read an article claiming that clericalism has grown with the introduction of lay involvement in Church governance. The article claims that it wasn't nearly the problem prior to Vatican II that it has become in recent years. If I can find the article, I'll post it

Although he mentioned it in a different context, the Cranky Professor highlights the intriguing ways that parishes elect their lay boards. With his permission, I'm referencing his remarks. If we have to go with lay boards, I like the idea of random 'election' Perhaps we could even find a way to incorporate 'army volunteerism' where volunteers are simply the people too slow to take a step back when called upon.

Perhaps John at Disputations has the best answer: Prayer and Fasting.

Other links of interest will follow as they crop up.